Discovery documents released yesterday shows that the special prosecutor in the Trayvon Martin shooting case has a difficult task in front of her. The presumed motive for the shooting, which defendant George Zimmerman claims was necessary to save his life, was racism. The FBI investigation ruled out that motive, NBC’s Miami affiliate reports — but that doesn’t mean Zimmerman is out of the woods yet:
View more videos at: http://nbcmiami.com.
The FBI found no racial bias behind George Zimmerman’s shooting of Miami Gardens teen Trayvon Martin, according to dozens of documents related to the case released Thursday.
The second round of discovery documents released by prosecutors include reports from the FBI, Florida Department of Law Enforcement and State Attorney’s Office as well as photos of the crime scene, aerial photos, police calls and surveillance video related to the shooting.
Zimmerman, 28, is charged with second-degree murder for the killing of Martin, 17, in a Sanford gated community in February. He claims he shot Martin in self-defense.
The documents from the State Attorney’s Office include memorandums of interviews between investigators and witnesses, family members and officers who responded to the scene and worked on the case.
This may doom a second-degree murder case, in which there has to be some malice present prior to the killing. It doesn’t negate the possibility of a manslaughter charge, though, which doesn’t necessarily require a showing of malice. If the government has evidence that the use of lethal force was not a reasonable choice, Zimmerman could still be found guilty of manslaughter, as lethal force in self-defense can only be used when a reasonable person would conclude that it was the only way to save himself from death or grave bodily harm.
However, changing the charge from second-degree murder to manslaughter might be tough under the circumstances for the special prosecutor in this case. Technically, the FBI was working on a civil-rights case for the DoJ and not for the state’s special prosecutor, but the defense will certainly produce the FBI’s conclusion that racial bias played no part in the shooting during a second-degree murder trial. Having led with the second-degree charge, the special prosecutor’s credibility will be seriously undermined by the FBI report, and an attempt to shift the charge downward will undermine it even further. Unless the state has overwhelming evidence that the FBI missed, their case is in serious trouble.